Hassan's Wall is a lookout with magnificent views of the Hartley Vale area which undulates gently between the Blue Mountains and the country town of Lithgow, in New South Wales.
Indi hadn't been there before, and she was absolutely bursting to smell ALL the new smells AT THE SAME TIME. So to calm her down a bit, we walked a couple of hundred metres down the driving track, away from all the lookout points, just to get the scented lay of the land for a bit.
For good measure, we wandered down an overgrown side track that didn't go anywhere. I'm guessing it's an off-the-main-track parking spot for the likes of the NSW Parks and Wildlife, or the NSW Rural Fire Service folk. Anyway, the little saunter worked, and Indi settled into a more relaxed mode of grooving around. So we backtracked our steps towards the main driving track.
Then, right under my foot - and right under Indi's paws - I caught the faintest glimpse of a dark-grey tree branch moving.
It was a snake.
If Indi hadn't half-turned her head in a casual "oh hey, a thing" sniff, I may not have even registered it.
But as it was, Indi turned her head, and the snake lifted its head - all of which happened right under/between our feet, and which I saw out of the corner of my eye. Mid-step, mid-realisation, I shrieked loudly (probably something inane, like "snake" or "aaargh"), leapt at least two feet in the air, and pulled Indi along before she could sniff further and annoy the snake - all in one single, scrambling movement. We cleared a couple more metres faster than you might believe, before I turned around to gawp and gasp at the snake.
The snake wasn't perturbed.
It's funny, even as I was shrieking and leaping high over the snake, I'd registered that it was a dark grey/black snake - which I know aren't aggressive. (Brown snakes, on the other hand, are super-aggressive and bad news). It helped, I think, that it was the end of a super-warm day and the snake was sun-soaked and relaxed. It also helped that, for whatever reason, Indi turned to sniff it surprisingly casually as opposed to doing her usual "must bite and chew this thing", and also that neither of us accidentally trod on it.
This is the second snake I've encountered by myself in bush country (i.e., when there hasn't been another human around). Both solo snake times, my immediate-aftermath reactions have been the same - a flood of ice-cold tingles. Not goosebumps, but a wash of cold prickles. It's a very particular sensation I've never experienced in any other situation.
I took this pic of the snake. The pic has lousy resolution because I used the zoom. I wasn't going to go anywhere near it again.
It seems rather difficult to miss the snake in this photo, doesn't it? But there you go.
And there we went. Indi and I hurried back up the main driving track, pretty quickly, shaking out post-adrenalin nerves (me, not Indi), and watching frantically as every branch became a possible snake.
We looked at a couple of vantage points, and we saw this strange firepit, which made me think - well, a couple of things, actually. Firstly, it's an odd thing to have at the top of the lookout, near bush. Maybe it's a common night-time drinking spot? I don't know. But I imagine fires like this to be complete no-nos, especially as the weather warms up, but even in winter, especially dry winters like the one just gone. Secondly, I pictured Enid-Blyton-esque bad guys using the fires as signals for Up-To-No-Good Reasons.
Cue The Mystery at Hassan's Wall, and "I'd've gotten away with it if it weren't for you rotten kids".
Then Indi explored several of the different lookout points and reluctantly agreed to pose for a few pics for me (not because of ill-effects from the snake, but because she doesn't like the camera being shovelled in front of her face). But I think you'll agree she's a really photogenic girl.
The road in the background is the Great Western Highway, which goes all the way from Sydney's inner(-ish) west suburbs all the way through Sydney's greater west, over the Blue Mountains and out to Bathurst, in the country. I think this section is called "Forty Bends", and I think the township of Lithgow is on the other side of the hill.
If you must, here's the Forty Bends stretch of the highway without Indi, although she's not that impressed that I'm actually using a photo without her in it, after all the posing she had to endure.
Behind Indi here, are the Blue Mountains in the distance, easing up into the mix of occasional hills and cleared plains that characterise Hartley Vale.
Sorry the pics aren't photoshopped. I wanted to get this post up before Indi changed her mind. And - ow! - Indi's scraping her paw on my arm now to tell me that's quite enough blogging for now.
So that's enough from us for now. Hope you enjoyed our little Girls' Own Adventure.
Indi and ReeBee xx